Salisbury boys fall in CCC Tournament final, 71-66
By Jason Queen
WALLBURG — A month ago, Thomasville boys coach James Atkinson was clamoring for his team to come up with big stops and big shots in crunch time.
Looks like the Bulldogs figured it out.
For the second straight night, Thomasville played tough defense and got some huge buckets with the game on the line in toppling Salisbury, 71-66, here Friday in the Central Carolina Conference Tournament championship game at Ledford.
Trying to secure a late lead after two monster scores by Taylor Jenkins, Thomasville went 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the final 1:20 to knock off the regular-season CCC champs. Throw in two key blocked shots in the waning moments, and Atkinson had plenty to smile about.
“I challenged them at halftime, told them they weren’t playing with heart,” Atkinson said. “That was the difference in letting them back in the game in the second quarter. So we just told them, ‘look, it’s simple: you’ve got to rebound, make a shot, and play solid defense.’”
While that approach seemed overly simple, all of those things eluded the Bulldogs for long stretches in the second quarter. Salisbury big man Bill Fisher’s third-chance stick-back highlighted a 7-0 run that forged a 29-all tie at the half. That late run negated what had been a superb half of defense for the Bulldogs, who used a bend-but-don’t-break zone to slow down the Hornets.
Cameron Whiteside’s personal 6-0 run early in the fourth period put the Bulldogs ahead 56-51, but Salisbury countered with Isaac Baker’s 3-pointer and Oshaun Robinson’s fast-break bucket to tie things up again with 6:10 to play.
Jordan Williams provided the answer for the Bulldogs, burying a huge 3-pointer from the wing. Then Jenkins, who only scored six points, worked his way into the lane for a pair of scores. Just like that, Thomasville was back in front 63-56.
The Hornets then scored five straight points, but Whiteside and Breaux calmly sank four straight free throws to stem the tide. Whiteside sealed the win with a key block, with Thomasville up, 67-63, with 30 seconds left.
Salisbury coach Bryan Withers, whose team slipped to 24-3, understood the Hornets have bigger fish to fry next week. “We’ve had some distractions the last couple days,” said Withers, who was playing without a starter for the second time in this tournament due to disciplinary issues. “I think our team is OK. Early on, I didn’t like how many layups we missed. That’s concentration, focus.
“Mentally, I don’t think we were there,” continued Withers. “We’ve got to find a way to get them in a better position to win a game like this.”
Whiteside finished with 26 points, with a scout from Guilford College watching his every move. Nydrick Jenkins added 14 points and Kendrick Breaux scored 12 as the Bulldogs improved to 19-6. Thomasville, the league’s second seed, will host a 2A playoff game on Tuesday.
Baker finished with 21 points for the Hornets, while Robinson and Fisher added 12 each.
THOMASVILLE (71) — Whiteside 26, Breaux 15, Jenkins 11, Jenkins 6, Williams 5, Cunningham 4, Barnes 3, Cunningham 1.
SALISBURY (66) — Baker 21, Robinson 12, Fisher 12, Gill 9, Russell 8, Kesler 4.
Thomasville 15 14 21 21 — 71
Salisbury 11 18 19 18 — 66
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